So the time has come. It’s time for you (or your son or daughter) to start thinking about college. Most students begin this process around their junior year of high school, but some families like to start even sooner. But what do you do when the college application process totally baffles you? Here’s a quick guide to taking your very first steps in the college search.
Figuring Out Who You Are (For Now)
Before you even begin thinking about where you’ll go and what you’ll study, stop and take some time to consider who you are right now. What do you really want from your college experience? Do you dream of heading across the country? Perhaps you want a very traditional college experience with lots of fraternities and sororities? Or maybe academia is your priority and you’re aiming high with Ivy League and other top tier schools? Before you research any programs or universities, make lists of what you’d like in your higher education experience, what type of atmosphere you most desire, and perhaps even what kind of environment you think would be best for your personality and temperament.
Time for a Family Meeting
Next up is a thorough discussion between parents and student. What do your parents envision for your future? Are your dreams and goals in line? If not, how can you compromise? It is vital to talk about the college process early, to avoid arguments later on and to ensure you’re all on the same page. If you plan to study 10 states away, but your parents banked on you staying closer to home, these issues will need to be worked out, and the sooner the better. This conversation, and others, is also when you should begin addressing the financial piece. What will your parents be able to contribute to your college education? Will you need to take out loans? Are you hoping for scholarships? Talking about this early on allows you to apply to the right schools that meet your situation and needs.
Basic Research of Schools
Now that you know a little bit of what you’re looking for and have narrowed it down at least somewhat in terms of finances, it’s time for the fun part: researching colleges. If you are firmly decided on what you want to study, you may be best seeking out institutions with solid reputations in these subjects. If you’re open to a variety of majors, however, you can be a bit more versatile in your research. There are plenty of useful college search tools on the Internet, but a great place to start is Peterson’s.
As you begin to hone in on some colleges and universities that interest you, your family can begin planning visits and tours. This is the best way to see whether or not a school is the right fit for you. Keep researching, too. University websites are chock full of information. You can discover so much about a school from its website, social media accounts, and even from contacting current students.
Moving forward in the college admissions process, it’s a smart idea to work with a college consultant. A consultant can be an invaluable resource when it comes to choosing colleges, applying, and making sure you have the best chance of being admitted to the school of your choice. It is a complicated process, but with help, applying to higher education is a breeze. For the top Bay Area college planner, get in touch with Manuel today at College Planning ABC.